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Tag: Asbestos

Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Peritoneal mesothelioma is the second most common type of malignant mesothelioma.  It occurs in the protective lining of the abdomen called the peritoneum.  With 400 new cases diagnosed per year, peritoneal mesothelioma makes up 15-20% of new cases of malignant mesothelioma diagnosed annually.

Like other mesotheliomas, peritoneal mesothelioma has been linked to asbestos exposure. Current asbestos regulations have reduced the public’s exposure to asbestos today.  In the past, however, many workers were exposed to asbestos at their job sites.  Tragically, despite the known risk of asbestos exposure, many industries continued to expose workers to asbestos for decades.  The time between exposure to asbestos and the onset of the disease can range from 20-50 years.  The impact of so many industries disregarding the safety of their workers in the past continues to wreak havoc on individuals and families today who are told that they or their loved one have been diagnosed with a form of mesothelioma.

When asbestos-containing materials are disturbed, they can release asbestos fibers into the air.  Asbestos-related diseases are usually a result of the inhalation or ingestion of the asbestos fibers.  The body’s natural response to the unwelcome invasion of asbestos fibers may result in the development of asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma. When asbestos fibers become lodged in the protective layer surrounding the abdomen, it can cause peritoneal mesothelioma.  

Due to the location of the tumor, symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma mostly occur in the abdomen.  Symptoms may include abdominal swelling, pain and tenderness as well as constipation and diarrhea.  Diagnosis of peritoneal mesothelioma may involve obtaining x-rays of the abdomen and undergoing a peritoneoscopy which involves the insertion of a camera (a peritoneoscope) through the abdominal wall.  

Unfortunately, like all malignant mesotheliomas, the prognosis for peritoneal mesothelioma is poor.  The life expectancy for peritoneal mesothelioma ranges from 6 months to five years.   Factors which affect prognosis include the type of cells found in the tumor, the size and stage of the disease, and whether the cancer has metastasized, or spread, to other parts of the body.  The more promising treatments for peritoneal mesothelioma involve both surgery and the administration of heated chemotherapy solutions.  For more detailed information regarding peritoneal mesothelioma, diagnostic methods and treatment options, see the American Cancer Society’s website.


Pericardial Mesothelioma

Pericardial mesothelioma is the least common of mesotheliomas linked to asbestos exposure.  Unlike pleural and peritoneal mesotheliomas which affect the lungs and abdomen respectively, pericardial mesothelioma impacts the heart.  Specifically, the malignancy occurs in the pericardium, the protective, mesothelial layer that surrounds the heart.  Accounting for 1-2% of all mesothelioma cases, fewer than 50 people are diagnosed with pericardial mesothelioma each year.  Due in part to the location of the tumor, prognosis for pericardial mesothelioma is the poorest of the malignant mesotheliomas.  Tragically, only half of those diagnosed with pericardial mesothelioma live longer than 6 months.  

Since pericardial mesothelioma is very rare, there have been fewer opportunities to research the condition. Although linked to asbestos exposure, less is known about how the asbestos fibers reach the pericardium.  Typically, exposure to asbestos involves the inhalation or swallowing of asbestos fibers.

Since symptoms of pericardial mesothelioma are similar to more common heart conditions, misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis may occur.   Unfortunately, many cases of pericardial mesothelioma are not discovered until an autopsy is performed.  Symptoms of pericardial mesothelioma include chest pain, fatigue, and shortness of breath.  The impact of pericardial mesothelioma on cardiovascular function may include the development of fluid around the heart, heart murmurs and arrhythmia.

A variety of tests may be performed in order to diagnose pericardial mesothelioma.  An echocardiogram may be performed which uses sound waves to evaluate how well the heart is working.  Additionally, a CT scan may be used to find the location of the tumor and to determine the stage of the disease. 

Due to the tumor’s proximity to the heart, the surgical removal of the tumor, a procedure called a pericardiectomy, is rarely an option unless the tumor is particularly small and the individual is considered to be healthy enough to survive the procedure.  The more commonly used treatment options include chemotherapy and radiation treatments. For more information on malignant mesotheliomas, including pericardial mesothelioma, see the American Cancer Society’s website.

Mesothelioma and Asbestos

Medical research has established that asbestos exposure can cause a variety of diseases, including mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis. Typically, diseases which result from asbestos exposure occur when asbestos-containing materials are disturbed, resulting in the release of asbestos fibers into the air which are then inhaled or ingested by individuals in the vicinity. By far, the most devastating and lethal of the diseases caused by asbestos exposure is malignant mesothelioma.  

What is malignant mesothelioma?

Malignant mesothelioma is a type of cancer which occurs in the mesothelium, which is a thin layer of tissue that functions as a protective barrier around the majority of our internal organs.  Doctors often categorize different types of mesothelioma based on where the malignancy occurs in the mesothelium.  For instance, pleural mesothelioma affects the mesothelium which surrounds the lungs (pleura); peritoneal mesothelioma affects the abdomen (peritoneum); and pericardial mesothelioma affects the heart (pericardium).  Although very rare, mesothelioma can occur in the testes and is referred to as to as mesothelioma of the tunica vaginalis.  Additionally, mesothelioma can be categorized based on the type of cell found in the tumor.  The three cell types include epithelioid, sarcomatoid, and biphasic cells.  Finally, there are cases of benign mesothelioma (non-cancerous) but they are very rare.  

For more information on the different types of mesothelioma click here.  If you are concerned that you or a loved one may have been exposed to asbestos and are seeking more information, we have compiled a state-by-state list of job sites around the country known to have had asbestos exposure.  Since exposures can occur in multiple job sites, we also have included a list of occupations at risk of having asbestos exposure due to the nature of the job.  Finally, see our products list for a list of products known to have contained asbestos.